Prometheus: You're in luck! The bridge ahead is still intact. (an Invader throws a car off the bridge and heads for Michael) Michael Ford: You neglected to mention the giant alien standing on the bridge.
When a character fails to notice something important or obvious, something they would want to know, even when looking. Differs from Weirdness Censor (where they don't see it because it's so bizarre), Selective Obliviousness (where they don't want to see it), and Bystander Syndrome (where they ignore it because they don't care). Also differs from Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!, as there usually isn't that excuse. Opposite of Hyper Awareness. Can often result in Right Behind Me (although that might be closer to failing a Listen check) or I'm Standing Right Here.
The name comes from a typical mechanic from RPG games, dating back from the arch-RPG Dungeons & Dragons. A character's success on various tasks is determined by a die roll combined in some way with base statistics (such as strength or intelligence) and some skill. The skills in question include several that require substantial luck, like Appraise, Use Magic Device, Hide, or the various Perform skills, but also such mundane tasks as Listen and Spot. Indeed, the Spot skill, which determines whether someone notices events around them in time to react, is often very dependent on luck, even if it's something any idiot should be able to see.
Because things like searching for hidden objects/doors/clues, "noticing what's going on out of the ordinary" or good old ambushes are all very common events in most RPG games, Spot Checks tend to be among, if not THE most common die rolls being done. A single failed Spot Check can put the whole party at a disadvantage, and if you're not lucky you can miss something vital, even while looking for it. Considering the amount of Spot Checks a typical game involves, there always are instances of missing out something because on One Bad Roll, which naturally frustrated people about Spot Checks for literally decades.
Referenced in a running gag in the webcomic The Order of the Stick, which is wholly dedicated to common "back" sides of playing RPGs. Ironically, both in D&D games and in The Order of the Stick, the players will know that they failed a spot check (though D&D GMs are encouraged to roll spot checks secretly when necessary), thus they are aware of not being aware of something, only not knowing what that something is. In the D&D case, the player is aware of the character not knowing something. In The Order of the Stick case, the lack of distinction between player and character reaches the level of Medium Awareness, and is Played for Laughs.
This doesn't necessarily imply that the character is stupid; they just aren't noticing an important "something". One of the oldest jokes in Dungeon Master's arsenal used to be for players who fail their spot checks badly enough to find themselves "discovering" something both incredibly large and plainly obvious such as an island or a mountain, instead of the one unobtrusive detail that they were trying to find.
May relate to Genre Blindness and Plot-Induced Stupidity. May be a sign of a character carrying the Idiot Ball or being an Unwitting Pawn. When the character's creator explicitly decides what he can and cannot notice, it may lead to Plot Sensitive Snooping Skills. In cases of characters consistently failing spot checks to penetrate a Paper-Thin Disguise, we have Clark Kenting. Someone who does this too often may be Too Dumb to Live, or it may be a case of Obfuscating Stupidity, especially if the spot check failures suddenly stop at a crucial point. Can result in the characters realizing that Camp Unsafe Isn't Safe Anymore. Also, this isTruth in Television, as anyone who lost his keys in the open middle of his desk can say. Behind the Black or No Peripheral Vision is when the character should be able to see it from his vantage point, but doesn't because the audience can't from their angle. The Chaste Hero is a character (usually male) who consistently rolls "1"s where romance is concerned. If the thing they're failing to notice is a breaking news story, that's Ignored Vital News Reports. If everyone fails to notice a creature that's big and dumb enough that its presence ought to be obvious, it's Suspiciously Stealthy Predator.
The scientific term is for this phenomenon is Inattentional Blindness, so as incredible (and possibly depressing) as it sounds, it is known to happen to some degree in real life as well.
Strangely, more likely to happen to a Meganekko than someone with an Eyepatch of Power.
Contrast with Awesome by Analysis.
If the author does this, you may see Rouge Angles of Satin.
In an episode of Full Metal Panic Fumoffu, Sagara defuses a Hostage Situation by taking the hostage-taker's little brother hostage and somehow tying him up in the rafters of the warehouse without anyone noticing. The kid was also in on the plot, however, which makes it slightly more plausible.
This actually makes some form of sense in context; Sagara's ability to move silently at extremely high speed is specifically noted by at least one character to be amazing. He defuses a situation between Mao and Weber when he's still a recruit by casually crossing at least three metres of space without a sound and without being noticed until he sticks the butt of his rifle between them from about two feet away.
During the Chunin Exam Finals arc of the Naruto anime, an ANBU Black Op patrolling the forest around the stadium senses a presence and halts, only to brush it off as probably nothing. While no enemy ninja were technically visible in that shot, the following shot displayed an entire squadron of ninja standing next to trees and various shrubbery. Not behind the trees and shrubbery, but next to them.
You have to feel a little bad for Chisame as the only student in a class of 31 girls to really notice and find unusual the fact that one of her classmates is a robot with mechanical joints and antennae for ears. Or that Kaede and Mana look way too old to be middleschoolers and the twins look like kindergarteners. Asuna and Negi don't actually notice Chachamaru until she starts flying using her jetboots. Lampshaded, of course.
The presence of the huge occidental dragon in the underground of Mahora gets missed twice — until it literally drool on someone's head.
Natsumi later gets an artifact that, as long as she wears it, causes this. She can walk right past the Big Bad and, as long as she wears it and doesn't touch him, he fails the spot check.
Yamamoto from Katekyo Hitman Reborn!lives this trope. Despite fighting in numerous life-or-death battles, seeing himself and his friends be horribly injured, going through extreme training just to ensure his own survival, traveling through time, and finding out that in the future his dad is murdered by his enemies he STILL thinks all his numerous adventures are just part of an elaborate LARP. This isn't due to lack of intelligence (he's actually one of the smarter guys in the family) but seems to be either a defense mechanism which allows him to maintain his sunny disposition no matter what, or just his way of downplaying the seriousness of the situations at hand. One thing's for sure; he is damn committed to this "mafia role-playing game". Well, in the manga he reveals that he's known all along that it was real, and that it was all an act.
Code Geass has this done by a Knight of the Round, Luciano Bradley. As he has Lelouch tied up and is about to kill him, Kallen (in the new suped-up Guren SEITEN Eight Elements) wipes out his command and starts to fight him. Luciano laughs cockily throughout, not noticing that Kallen is smashing his weapons one by one. It's only after Kallen grabs his Knightmare by the head and turns on the radiant wave surger that he finally realizes how screwed he is, and by then it's too late. Arguably, however, Luciano knew full well his weapons were getting trashed; his strategy seemed to hinge on getting close enough to use his spiked Slash Harken at a range she couldn't dodge... except she blocked it.
His Unknown Rival Zoruru takes this Up to Eleven. Everyone fails their spot checks when it comes to the half-metal cyborg assassin with red and black eyes, for some reason. One chapter ramped this up by having the readers potentially fail their spot check: after Dororo leaves for a bit of waterfall training with Koyuki, we're shown a typical Keroro Platoon meeting... with Zoruru sitting in Dororo's usual seat.
In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, when Judai is trying to return to Duel Academy, he somehow fails to notice a sign pointing the way, and the fact the buildings are visible.
In Yu-Gi-Oh! vanilla, when Kaiba and Mokuba are setting up to blow up Duel Tower / Alcatraz, with 25 minutes to go, Mokuba comments that he hopes "the rest of the gang" (his friends, their employees, and everyone else) already left. A video screen right in front of him shows the blimp they came on, and at the time, "the rest of the gang"'s only means of transportation, has not moved from its spot.
No-one in Hell Girl ever seems to notice Ren's giant, disembodied eye watching them in several episodes of the show.
During the Soul Society arc, Kenpachi takes Yachiru, Ikkaku, Yumichika, Aramaki and Orihime and breaks Chad, Uryuu and Ganju out of the Fourth Division prison and go in search of Ichigo. While travelling through the labyrinthine streets, the group ends up arguing about the amount of times they run into dead-ends and get lost. The only person who realises they're being followed by two captains and two vice-captains who are hiding their reiatsu is Yumichika. When Yumichika warns Kenpachi, Kenpachi acknowledges that he can sense them too. Everyone else in the group, however, is completely oblivious until the four reveal themselves.
During the BountArc, Vice-captainsHisagi, Kira, Rangiku and Fifth-SeatYumichika are sent after the Bount. Outside the hide-away caves, the vice-captains catch Yumichika admiring himself in his mirror and chastise him for dropping his guard. However, the anime shows the audience that Yumichika had both noticed the vice-captains approaching him via his mirror and that he's the only one who realised the Bount had already detected the group's arrival. Once inside the caves, the group examine many strangely designed pillars but Yumichika keeps looking off in a completely different direction to the others. Whey they're suddenly attacked from behind, Yumichika saves them all by blocking the strike. He then chastises them for having been so unobservant they'd never noticed the danger he'd been aware of all along.
In the manga, when Hitsugaya's Advance Guard split up to find different locations to sleep in, the only one who notices the unusual hollow reiatsu that heralds the arrival of Grimmjow's group is Yumichika. He tries to warn Ikkaku who tells him to ignore it, but he still thinks the situation is far too strange. When Grimmjow's assault begins, a panel is shown of all the shinigami reactions, and the only one not surprised is Yumichika.
Miho Juufuku from To Aru Kagaku no Railgun has this as her power. Un-augmented, it simply causes people around her to either not notice her or simply be less aware of her presence. When hopped up on Level Upper, her power allows her to erase herself from visual line-of sight, requiring cameras or some form of electronic viewing equipment to see her.
Yukito in Cardcaptor Sakura during the sword episode manage to Roll a 20 and a 1 at the same time missing the unconscious girl, Sakura's staff, Li's sword and clothes but spot the tiny bite mark on Li finger.
In Flunk Punk Rumble (aka Yankee-kun To Megane-chan), Daichi Shinagawa is totally and hopelessly unable to recognize Hana Adachi as the girl he fell in love with at the entry exam for Monshiro High and the one who gave him his scar, despite interacting with her on a daily basis given they're in the same class and good friends. Adachi is the same. He discovers the truth quite long before the story's end, though.
In Zombie Plague, players may search any spot they haven't searched, even if others have searched it, and what one player finds is completely independent of what another might find. It's entirely possible for one player to search a locker and find nothing but car keys, then have the next player search the same locker and find a chainsaw
The expansion turns the whole game Up to Eleven, making the possibilities even wilder. Hypothetically, the first three searchers might find nothing but car keys, a single bullet, and a screwdriver, followed by other players finding (one at a time) a flamethrower, live beagle, double-barreled shotgun, suit of chainmail, safe, and cellar door in the same spot.
Risk: If you pay too much attention to one threat — say, the most immediate one, such as the continent-breaking attack the South American player has launched at the southern North American border — you'll miss another player quietly adding troops in an undefended area, making the turn in which someone takes Alaska and holds it with 12 troops a bit of a surprise. It would also behoove you to pay attention to how many cards your enemies have, but this is war, damnit! Electronic Arts seems to have programmed their computer players to routinely fail to monitor the whole board, possibly in a combination of Truth in Television and Artificial Stupidity.
Transformers contains an epic example. Unicron, a planet-sizeddevourer of worlds is able to sneak up on the planet of Cybertron with no one noticing him until he's close enough to take up the entire sky, because they're all busy fighting over whether or not they need to team up to take him on (that's right, they know he's coming and still don't have so much as a lookout to provide an early warning signal).
This very moment was Lampshaded by Kup at the end of American #74. Kup asks Primus "You can sense Unicron, correct?" When given the answer of "yes, through our bond" Kup points to the sky behind Primus (and it may be noted, that the group Kup just walked away from to ask this question, has already been seen to be huddling together out of apprehension) and asks "Then how in the name of creation did you miss THAT?" Revealed in the next issue by Primus himself: Unicron snuck up on the planet in a shut-down state. He drifted up on them, and it's quite likely that the rather small army (this was before Grimlock's contingent of reactivated 'bots came back in the Ark) was still working out unit assignments and the like, going by the state of "the army" in the very next issue. That being, highly unprepared and it's no small wonder so many got deactivated...
The Knights of the Round Table, Karadoc and Perceval, from the French Kaamelott TV series are rather oblivious as a general rule. In the spin-off comic book Le Serpent Géant du lac de l'Ombre ("The Giant Snake from Shadow Lake"), they however take it to a whole new level. While rowing on the title lake in search of the eponymous giant snake, a huge coil of said monster rises above the water behind them... and they don't notice. Then its tail strikes their boat, and they wonder if they hit a rock. Finally, a stronger tail lash capsizes their boat and sends both in the water. Their conclusion? There's no giant snake in this damn lake, they're just wasting their time.
In Death Of The Family, Catwoman finds herself trying to move giant chess pieces containing people around. She fails to notice a person's head sticking out of a pawn.
Averted in Better Angels when Shane immediately spots the herd of Walkers bearing down on Hershel's farm, whereas Rick didn't notice them in canon. This alludes to Shane's survival instincts being much stronger than Rick's.
On two occasions in Metal Gear Solid: Fight of Metal Gears, Jake Snake fails to notice enemies until Otacon calls him and tells him that they're behind him.
In Twilight Sparkles Awesome Adventure, Twilight didn't notice that Celesia was evil until it was pointed out to her, despite its extreme obviousness based on the description immediately following said pointing-out.
Dashs New Mom: Twilight Sparkle fails to realize that the stallion she's dating, Blue Streak, is Rainbow Dash's daddy. When the daughter◊ is almost a dead ringer for her father◊, Twilight is very sheepish when Rainbow points out how obvious at least some relation would be.
There was a brief period where Bonbon of the Reading Rainbowverse was actually in a tumblr dashboard. Both Lyra and Fluttershy tried to get her attention... but the relevant posts always moved out of view right before she turned to look.
Something very similar happens in Shrek 2. Shrek sneaks into the factory of the Fairy Godmother, by disguising himself in one of the workers' uniforms. Fine, except the workers are gnomes, he's an ogre, and the entire uniform only covers his head.
Sgt. Calhoun's backstory in Wreck It Ralph tells how her groom-to-be was eaten by Cy-Bugs at their wedding because she failed to do a perimeter check.
Films — Live-Action
A particularly egregious example in Michael Bay's Transformers, wherein a hobbit-sized (and glaringly product-placed) Decepticon sneaks around in an incredibly obvious manner, yet somehow manages to avoid being caught by the security guards standing only a few feet away.
The entire first third of Shaun Of The Dead is one giant failed spot check, with the protagonists not noticing a Zombie Apocalypse unfolding around them even when they run into actual zombies — "Hey! We're not using the "Z" word!" In particular, the long scene where a hungover Shaun goes through his morning shopping routine (which we've already seen in its "normal" form in the beginning of the movie), utterly failing to spot things like some blood in a glaringly obvious place, or actually paying for what he gets from the store.
Parodied in Monty Pythons Life Of Brian, where members of the Judean People's Front (or was it the People's Front of Judea?) hide from the Romans behind coat racks, under blankets, behind poorly constructed and non-concealing chairs, and out on the patio, only to have the Romans fail to discover them. Somehow, the Romans do find a spoon. On the second try.
In Jurassic Park, a Tyrannosaurus rex (which up until then had been heralded by the ground shaking as they approach) appears out of nowhere to save the heroes by getting into a fight with some Velociraptors at the end. Somewhat mitigated by the fact that they are now inside, and on presumably a more stable foundation; and by the fact that they are at that point too busy running for their lives to notice.
Batman: The Movie: The United World Council takes the cake, unable to notice the criminals' entrance or the fact each member is disappearing one by one. Note how well this works as a political commentary.
In The Lovely Bones Susie Salmon admitted after the fact that she didn't pay any attention to her surroundings, implying that she might have lived if she did.
Thomas Jefferson Geronimo III, the protagonist of Final Justice, apparently has no awareness of his surroundings, which results in his losing the suspect in his custody, being captured and nearly tortured himself, and the deaths of two innocent people.
The French comedy La Chèvre and its American remake (Pure Luck) have the accident-prone protagonist get robbed by a local criminal. To help him, the detective working with him takes a break from tracking down a man who the missing heiress was last seen with. He eventually tracks down the criminal at a poker game and forces him to repay the klutz. After they leave the game, they decide to get back to tracking down the supposed kidnapper. The detective takes out the man's picture and realizes he was at the poker game.
A number of deaths in the Final Destination series are caused by things you would think the person would notice, ie. the bathroom practically flooding with blue water, a cracked mug practically gushing vodka....
Watching The Lord of the Rings The Two Towers, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas encounter Éomer and his riders but apparently make no note of the huge plume of smoke rising to the sky until it is pointed out to them. Rather a poor showing for trained rangers and trackers.
Also in The Two Towers, Wormtongue is surprised that Gandalf didn't have hs staff confiscated at the door to Théoden's hall, even though Gandalf was holding it in his hand as he walked down the length of the hall in clear view of Wormtongue.
Ian McKellen on the commentary track says he was well aware of this problem and that he was trying to make the staff as inconspicuous to the camera as possible during his walk towards the throne.
As Alan Lee points out in the Design Team audio commentary of The Return of the King Extended Cut, the orcs crossing the river to Osgiliath have great big bloody torches. And yet no soldier really notices. As a matter of fact, you were probably like this Troper and didn't notice yourself. Which makes it at least somewhat plausible...
Also pointed out in an Lord of the Rings Return of the King commentary, this time the Cast one; during an extended scene, you see Éowyn and Merry talking in the middle of the Rohan encampment. Fine, except Merry is a hobbit and Éowyn has her helmet off. We can only say that the other riders weren't actually looking for them as a loophole. Except later on, Éowyn flinches and hides her face as her Uncle rides by before the big battle. Well, it was a nice character driven conversation and Miranda did hate that helmet...
Well, men with long hair were extremely common, and it's not like anyone was on the lookout for women anyway, so if they weren't looking closely nobody would notice. Also, the books all but state that the other riders and captains of Rohan were in on Éowyn being there, and presumably it was only her uncle and brother that would have a problem with it if they saw her.
In Gunslinger, the main heroine Rose and the Mayor spend one scene discussing that they were going to keep him in the town jail to protect him... not realizing that antagonist Cain is nearby, listening in. When shown on MST3K, Joel muses that "peripheral vision hadn't been invented yet."
Speaking of MST3K, in The Movie, Crow says this when digging through the Satellite of Love ends up breaching the hull. When he asks for his plans and gets them, he spots out the detail. "Oh, well, look at that! 'Breach hull, all die!' Even had it underlined!"
Sherlock Holmes never had this problem, and was in fact the polar opposite, but Watson often seems oblivious to the most thuddingly obvious clues. The level of obliviousness varies depending on the particular portrayal, being fairly low in the original stories, but played up by Nigel Bruce.
In the original stories, Watson just doesn't make logical conclusions in ways that would solve crimes. Holmes usually asks Watson to come with him when there is a slim chance of sudden assault. With firearms. At night.
Very much a matter of opinion there. Watson, when prompted by Holmes, can be said to make quite a lot of intelligent and observational jumps — and in stories like The Hound Of The Baskervilles, where he has to function in Holmes' absence, he is nonetheless very effective at helping Holmes. He's good — Holmes is just so much better.
Edgar Allan Poe's The Purloined Letter is about a man who possesses a letter which is highly embarrassing to the royal family, and is blackmailing them with it. He freely allows the police to search his house, and after a very thorough search they come up empty. He had hidden the letter in the one place no-one would think to look: in a card holder, out in the open.
In The Dresden Files, Harry makes an "invisibility" potion which works by inducing this trope on anyone nearby. It works too well, and he is unable to get the guard's attention to save him from the Loup-Garou.
One Murderous Maths book, dealing with ellipses, featured a group of evil aliens dragging a giant space rock into the path of Earth's orbit (which they had plotted as a circle) and adopting a position some distance out of the way, only to be rudely surprised to learn that the Earth's orbit is an ellipse when the planet crashes into them unexpectedly. Needless to say this requires absolutely heinous incompetence, because even though the Earth moves at thousands of miles per hour, it is a frigging planet.
A boy in one Encyclopedia Brown book is notorious for this. Narration mentions that he once hired the title character to find his wristwatch, when it was on his other wrist the whole time.
In 1635: The Cannon Law, a Spanish officer is irritated by an Inquisitor who accuses him - an officer from a known noble family - of being a secret Jew because he slept in on a Saturday, while completely missing the two actual Jews in his unit. Then again, the two Jewish soldiers weren't that observant, to the point that he imagines a hypothetical Jewish Inquisition might suspect them of being secret Christians.
In the House episode "Skin Deep", Dr. Wilson gave a patient an ultrasound and failed to notice that she doesn't have a uterus. Actually tends to be a common medical hangup among less experienced doctors (or alternatively, medical technicians and such who have worked so long everything has become routine). Generally caused by patients having a specific problem, and the doctor searching for then treating that specific problem... only to miss the cancerous growth over the heart.
Lily Charles of Pushing Daisies misses the fact that Chuck, her daughter who thinks she's her niece, is back from the dead despite Chuck standing right in front of her. While Lily ismissing an eye, it's her right eye that's missing/blind, and in the scene in question the obstruction was to her right — so the eye that was best placed to see Chuck was actually her good eye.
Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers completely fails to notice that one of his guests has died as he's serving him breakfast in bed. Basil, we suspect, tends to think of most of his guests as somebody else's problem.
For more British goodness, a blowaway priest in one Monty Python's Flying Circus episode utterly fails to notice a very large cannon pointing out of a grave at his face, just so the Bishop could get there too late to save him.
In an episode, Gibbs comes upon the aftermath of a shootout in Mexico. Ocean on one side, desert on the other, and as soon as Gibbs dismounts there's a man with a gun behind him. I guess he was hiding behind the horse?
In the episode "Jurisdiction", Gibbs and DiNozzo go into a house with guns drawn and searching for bad guys, and DiNozzo calls "clear!" on a room with a CGIS agent in it that DiNozzo would have easily seen, if he'd bothered to look anywhere but straight ahead.
Most every novela has two people so deep in conversation that they will never notice an eavesdropper standing in plain sight, four feet away, in (but not hidden by) a doorway.
The Eleventh Doctor, along with River Song, had one of these in "The Time of Angels" when they failed to notice that while the Aplan race who built the catacombs had two heads, the statues they supposedly put there only had one... so all the statues were angels who had lost their wings.
River Song: How could we miss that? The Doctor: Low level perception filter, or maybe we're thick.
The Eleventh Doctor again in "The Pandorica Opens". He's in ancient Britain during the time of the Roman occupation when one of the Roman soldiers who've joined his cause turns out to be Rory Williams, who had died thousands of years in the future and then was erased completely from ever having existed by a crack in the universe. The Doctor is the only person who still remembers him. He tries to approach the Doctor but the Doctor, lost in thought about the other aspects of their situation, asks him to be quiet while he tries to figure it out.
The Doctor: Oh, missing something, obvious, Rory! Something big, something right slap in front of me, I feel it. Rory: Yeah, I think you probably are. The Doctor: I'll get it in a minute.
The Ninth Doctor did this in the first episode of the New Series: he and Rose are discussing the Nestene invasion plans by the Thames, with a clear view of the London Eye, and the Doctor mentions that the Nestenes'll need an enormous transmitter. "What's it look like?" "Like a transmitter, round and massive. Smack dab in the middle of London, must be completely invisible." She has to make him turn around three times before the penny drops.
The Master isn't immune either. He converts 99.9999999...% of the human race into copies of himself and still fails a spot check, something which the Tenth Doctor is only too delighted to point out.
The Doctor: Six-billion pairs of eyes and you can't even spot what's in front of you.
The Master: And what's that?
Doctor: (gesturing to the guard aiming a gun at Wilfred Mott) That guard is two inches too tall. (Guard knocks the Master flat on his back)
The second Doctor notes that a volcano is erupting on the island he is on, but needs to have it pointed out to him that he should probably leave because a volcano is erupting on the island he is on.
This trope is common throughout the original series where the Doctor and/or his companions will be "concealed" so long as the villain doesn't casually glance in their direction. Which he never does of course.
In the first episode of the original series story "Earthshock", a pair of assassin robots dart down a corridor just before a soldier turns to look. While the robots themselves are out of view, their shadows are clearly visible retreating down the passage; however, the soldier completely fails to notice despite staring straight at them.
The technology of "perception filters" are often used as a Handwave whenever the plot demands that something not be noticed until it needs to be dramatically revealed. The basic principle is that perception filters don't stop you seeing something, but will stop you noticing something unless you are either already aware of it or are specifically looking for it, and even then it takes effort to consciously spot it. For things that you would never consciously think about, like the number of doors in your house or whether your house actually has an upstairs, the filters are pretty fool-proof, and even the Doctor is not immune to their effects.
Carly: We have to keep the game clean and fair. Gibby: How would I know which one is Shannon? Sam: Listen. There will be three girls: Girl Number 1, GIRL NUMBER 2, and Girl Number 3. Gibby: So, which one is Shannon? Carly: If you want TWO go on a date with Shannon, you got TWO choose carefully. Carly & Sam: That is all you have TWO do. Gibby: O-kaaaaay!
Spencer runs into the apartment excited about a girl he just met in "iThink They Kissed", and doesn't notice that the Power Trio is tied together with duct tape.
Happens all the time on The Amazing Race when a team walks by a clue, and their cameraman points it out for the audience.
Particularly good in season 17 when almost every team somehow fails to notice the cypher key covering an entire building wall.
One episode of The Golden Girls had Sophia get misplaced while in the hospital. She ends up in an elevator. Meanwhile, Dorothy and Blanche go to the hospital to search for her. At one point, they get into said elevator, take it to a different floor, and get out without Dorothy and Blanche or Sophia noticing each other.
Halloween Havoc '97, Steve "Mongo" McMichael vs. Alex Wright. Wright won thanks to interference from Goldberg... who was in the ring for 2 minutes while the ref was distracted by Debra... despite the wrestlers bumping into him while so distracted. Even better? He looks backtwice while the interference was going on. As depicted inBotchamania (At approx. 7:30 mark).
While referees are easily distracted allowing for all sorts of shenanigans and can't put two and two together, the referee of this match deserves honorable mention. It's really bad when a commentator lampshades your error.
Character obliviousness is a genre convention for several stylized theatrical forms, particularly opera. There's no unified standard, of course, but the basic rules are roughly as follows: anyone hiding behind or under something is invisible, and that talking or even singing won't attract attention unless their speech happens to be a startled exclamation; anyone wearing a mask is unrecognizable, sometimes even obscuring gender. Individual productions have been known to subvert these rules, for instance by having all five eavesdroppers on a scene hide behind the same chair, concealed for plot purposes not only from the scene's principals but also from each other.
General Stanley rolls a 1 about six times on his spot check during "Sighing Softly to the River" in the climax. He fails to notice the roughly two dozen pirates and policemen who are not only hiding (poorly) in his garden, but are actually singing along with him.
Stanley: And as I lay in bed, awake, I thought I heard, a noise. Pirates/Policemen:He thought he heard a noise. Ha Ha! Stanley: No. All is still, on dale, on hill. My mind is set at ease...
Don't forget the lines that precede it.
Pirates: Yes, yes. The Major-General comes Policemen: Yes, yes. The Major-General comes Stanley: Yes, yes. The Major-General comes
Of course, the pirates themselves completely fail to notice the (badly) hidden policemen who are singing along with them.
And let's not forget the scene where the pirates sing loudly about how quietly they are sneaking up to the Major General's house before engaging in a little burglary in "With Cat-Like Tread" (the badly hidden policemen join in here as well occasionally). "A fly's footfall would be distinctly heard" indeed.
Arsenic And Old Lace makes this a Running Gag, first with hero Mortimer completely failing to notice his Ax Crazy brother Jonathan sneaking up behind him with a curtain cord, and then taken to Refuge in Audacity levels with the policemen who visit the house. Not only do they completely misinterpret the reason for Mortimer being tied up, but they don't recognize Jonathan and Dr. Einstein from wanted posters in the precinct even while he's trying to kill them. This is given a brutal Lampshade Hanging by the police chief later. And, of course, there's the ultimate Running Gag about the bodies in the cellar, which the police don't investigate even when told about them... four times.
One quest in Hellfire Peninsula has you search for a special corpse in a marsh filled with green bubbling liquid. Many people have searched and searched, looking in every pool, checking every corner, before giving up and asking in general where the frig the stupid corpse is. Soon after that, they generally find out it's the 10-story-high ribcage and skull that you can see before you even ENTER THE AREA. Granted, people are expecting and looking for an average-sized corpse, but it's still kinda funny.
The player has to be standing in one specific pool of ooze to use the quest item, or else it won't work. There are several pools surrounding the giant corpse, and using the quest item in all but one of them will return an error message.
The distance from which a player can get noticed and attacked by monsters varies based on level; if players try to enter a zone clearly too high-level for them, they will get swarmed and overpowered by monsters from far away. But if they are much higher level than the monsters, it's possible for them to walk very close to and in front of a monster without getting attacked.
This tends to happen a lot to FPS heroes — enter a perfectly normal room, and BAM! Hit in the head by some random mook (the likes of which you've killed dozens of by now) who then helps himself to all your weapons. And, of course, lobbing a grenade in before entering the room never works. Doesn't help that they sometimes teleport into the room offscreen.
Speaking of Fallout 3... in that game, enemies take about 1/10 of a second or so to see you when you pop out in front of them, and about 1/2 a second to react. Thus, if you are creeping around an office building or underground tunnels, you can just peer around corners in third-person, and then pop out while mashing the VATS button, and get a sneak attack critical without actually sneaking.
Furthermore, all enemies are apparently deaf, and cannot hear your gunshots. They will not notice you are in the building, killing their comrades, unless they actually see you, no matter how much noise you are making. They will also ignore their fallen buddies' corpses.
Enemies are capable of hearing, just to a limited extent only. If you run around and make footsteps, set off an explosion, or fire an unsilenced weapon within their range of hearing, they'll start looking around. They won't go ballistic until they actually see you, but they do possess a "search mode", and you can't perform a sneak attack critical on someone who is searching.
You would think that by now, Somebody would have noticed that Agent 47 Has a Barcode Tattooed to the back of his head. That would make identifying him rather easy, would it not?
This is somewhat lampsahed in absoultion the first thing he does when he goes into hiding is cut the barcode off.
The series overall zig-zags with this due to how the effectiveness of disguises doesn't always make sense. Twenty guards mill about a mansion, all wearing identical suits with sunglasses and some of them even have shaved heads. You'd think 47 would blend right in, but other guards actually see through the disguise easily. On the other hand, nobody notices when the only cook in the house suddenly loses all his hair and grows half a foot taller.
In both Neverwinter Nights games, your Hide checks are not affected by the (sometime dazzling) light effects of buff spells (though they are affected by torches and the Light spell). And in this D&D-based game, you tend to use tons of buffs all the time. Therefore, you can frequently see a rogue who looks more like a Christmas tree sneaking unnoticed past an enemy.
Played with in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, which has many RPG elements. Characters will notice if you are out of shape or if you are not wearing the appropriate gang colors. You can pick and choose clothes and whatever you are wearing shows up in the cut scenes. However, characters will not notice if you attend, for example, a serious business meeting in a gimp suit. Said meeting includes the character's sister. Ew.
Used and Mocked in Brutal Legend. The roadie unit is a large musclebound guy carrying an 8-foot stack of speakers on his back, yet he is a stealth unit... because no-one ever notices the roadies.
Geth aren't liked at all in the Mass Effect universe. So, in the second game, when you bring along Legion, your Geth party member, to the Citadel — where security has been heightened since the events of the first game to prevent against "Geth infiltration" — someone would notice, right? WRONG.
In the first game, Sheppard can try to comfort Ashley Williams, who is the last survivor of her squad which was ambushed by the Geth. She brushes him/her off, pointing out that you'd have to be pretty blind not to notice a bunch of robots with flashlights instead of heads sneaking up on you.
Even better is Tali's loyalty quest in the second game. If you bring Legion onto the quarian fleet, the guards are understandably edgy about it - the Geth drove their species off their homeworld, after all. The leader of the welcoming committee even threatens to shoot you both if you don't send him back to the Normandy (or you convince him otherwise). However, there is really no excuse for the court audience's horrified gasps of surprise when Admiral Koris loudly points out that there's a Geth in the courtroom and accuses Shepard of psychological warfare to manipulate the proceedings. Not to mention the quarian civilians' prior chatter about a Geth on the ship... with said Geth standing right next to them, drawing no reaction whatsoever.
In Police Quest, if you don't check your tires before driving off, you WILL end up with a flat tire. In Open Season, if you don't check the door with a stick mirror, you WILL get your throat ripped out by the guard dog. In SWAT, failing to slice the pie while entering a room = death.
Pokémon in general could be seen as an example of this. For much of the game, players will be wandering around in tall grass, looking for Mons. It makes sense that some of the small bird, bug, and rodent analogues would be hidden from view. But the game progresses onward, and soon players will see "A wild Onix appeared!". How anyone could not see the 7+ meter rock-snake is beyond anyone. Also, players will randomly encounter Mons while walking in caves or surfing on water, which should be in plain view. The game always suggests that you just now noticed them.
Toward the end of Chapter 7 in Super Paper Mario, the heroes rush into the final room, to find Grambi (who is a little taller than Luigi) injured and Luvbi (who is the shortest person in the room) trying to see if he's OK. They apparently didn't notice the 30-foot demonic skeleton dragon standing just off-screen until he announces his presence.
During the Grave Eclipse event, you can wake up an old man who will go and attempt to make tea, knock over all his furniture, and go back to bed muttering about spilling his tea. No comment on the invasion of shadow monsters from the netherworld horribly killing the screaming and panicked townspeople right outside his house.
All of Weyard seems to fail a spot check when Eoleo, an internationally-renowned violent criminal under a death sentence, joins your party and goes cruising the Eastern Sea with a bunch of teenagers.
In Assassins Creed II and Brotherhood, Ezios default appearance involves wearing bright white clothes, visible weapons and armour. He can still blend into any crowd, as long as he has 3 or more people around him. Even if he killed a dozen guards seconds ago and the guards just lost sight of him for a moment.
At least Ezio has a half-cloak that partially covers some of his weapons. Altaïr in the first game blatantly walks around with visible weapons. All he has to do to hide is bow his head slightly and hold his hands in prayer form. Apparently, it's not uncommon for the guards to see a heavily-armed monk. (Templars were warrior monks, so it isn't exactly unheard of.)
In Portal 2, Wheatley, being himself, tries to figure out a way to open a door and finds himself totally dumbfounded. He fails to notice the glaringly obvious button right in front of the door.
In the opening sequence, he deduces that a solid concrete wall is a docking bay and attempts a "manual override" on it - smashing your hotel-room sized pod into it until one breaks. Written on said wall is an arrow with the caption "Docking Bay 500M below."
Baten Kaitos Origins has Sagi leading a small squad of soldiers and machina into a room, where they find two people: the Emperor they are trying to assassinate, and someone who has been having a conversation with the Emperor. Sagi tells his men to let the bystander go, apparently missing the slightly significant detail that the Emperor is dead. Way to let the killer loose there, Sagi...
In Team Fortress 2, to his teammates, a disguised Spy looks like he's wearing a paper mask. The enemies must be rolling a lot of ones.
In Knights Of The Old Republic 2, the Czerka Corporation is on the lookout for an old employee of theirs who could rat them for their corrupt activities. They've apparently got all manner of mercenaries and bounty hunters after this guy. As it happens, he's hiding in an apartment right up the hall from their headquarters.
An important part of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker revolves around dumb guards in the Forsaken Fortress. Link must hide inside barrels to avoid being caught by the Moblin guards roaming the grounds. Apparently, the guards do notice that barrels seem to have moved suspiciously, but they merely sniff the barrel and continue on the way. Word Of God says that Moblins are actually very dumb.
This trope is also averted in the game with Link, the player character. He turns his head and looks at important objects within the area, even if that object has already been found, activated, etc.
In Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II, if he is not taken down already, Metal Sonic will fail to notice that his attack carrier is about to crash into a massive fuel tank of the Sky Fortress Zone.
A mass failed spot check that is both humorous and gratifying comes in the middle of Transformers Fall Of Cybertron. A defeated and captured Optimus Prime is dragged before a triumphantly gloating, ranting Megatron, and is to be executed before his enemies, though Prime remains Defiant to the End. Before Megatron can kill him, Metroplex, a even moreHumongous Mecha compared to the already large Transformers appears outside a giant viewing window. Right behind Megatron. The massive Autobot is the size of an entire city block, hence his name, and yet no one notices him until he tears the roof off the Decepticon chamber. Megatron attacks the giant and is squished like a bug. Four times.
BlazBlue pulls this one. During Slight Hope, Makoto is trying to help Jin to a local clinic when Hazama comes along and talks up a storm with the wounded Major... before trying to kill him. Given a squirrel beastkin, even in black cloak and hat, would be easy as hell to spot by her huge fluffy tail, and she was likely carrying Jin shoulder to shoulder to minimize the bleeding, Hazama only notices her when she directly interferes.
Mech Commander: The first cinematic in the first game features a Raven scout mech whose pilot manages to fail his core competency of being the team's sensor operator, leading directly to the loss of the team's Glass Cannon. He is promptly demoted to "Bait".
HF route in Visual Novel/Fate/stay night. Nobody except Ilya, who isn't saying anything about what she knows (a surprisingly large amount) or doesn't, notices that in this continuity of FSNShirou took the cloth off his arm, meaning every time he projects he causes himself brain damage. His memories and ability to concentrate go pretty early, and no one notices.
Subverted and played straight in the Submarine ending. Upon seeing Santa, Ace, and Clover lying dead on the ground, Lotus immediately points out that they should leave before the killer returns. However they fail to check to see if all three of the corpses have their bracelets still only (the bracelets fall off if they die), which leads to them failing to realize that Ace was still alive. Furthermore, Junpei fails to notice that Lotus and Seven disappeared from right next to him and were killed, because he was too upset at finding a dying Akane. Given the shock that the characters go through at these discoveries though, it's justified that they aren't paying a ton of attention to the details of dead bodies, and Junpei is busy having a Heroic BSOD after finding Akane.
Taken to ridiculous extents in the Axe Ending. Okay, Junpei, you just left a room with an axe and a girl *
who is clearly mentally unstable. You run into her, she's acting suspicious, and it's very, very obvious she's holding something behind her back. What does Junpei do? He let's her go uncontested. It gets worse. Akane and co. say they've found door number . Everyone's about to escape when Clover calls out and basically says, "Hey, let's forget about our one and only means of escape for a moment so I can lead the two most likely subjects in my brother's murder into an obvious trap!". Everyone rolls with it, and surprise, surprise, Clover's the only one who ends up coming back up the elevator. Junpei, instead of seeing anything wrong with the situation, which most people would have noticed fifteen minutes ago doesn't see anything wrong with the fact that Clover came up alone. When she tells him that she murdered everyone, and that she's going to escape together with him, instead of running away like any sane person would (although the argument could be made that Junpei wasn't entirely sane at that point) Junpei takes her hand and then he gets axed in the head. BAD END.
In Virtues Last Reward (the sequel to 999), Sigma epically fails a spot check when he fails to realize that his voice has changed, or that he's missing an eye, or that with the exception of his arms he has suddenly become sixty-seven years old.
Ace Attorney: You could be forgiven for thinking that the prosecutor's office and the police force both go out of their way to hire people who are guaranteed to fail a spot check, as the only way to win is to find evidence that the prosecution missed or a conflict between testimony given and evidence. Sometimes justified, but it can reach the ridiculous: at various points, you'll wind up retrieving murder weapons, security camera footage, and evidence left for over a month that's immediately visible as "one of these things is not like the others." In the second case of the first game, you will have to remind a detective of the victim's cause of death and the fact that the death was immediate. Thanks to this, your solution set is limited to three core possibilities: (1) there was someone else there; (2) someone impersonated the defendant; or (3) the murder was staged (the victim was already dead or the murder was reenacted so that there would be a witness). Later games lampshade the process. The series takes an aversion in Apollo Justice, when both the new prosecutor and detective begin by taking a level up before advancing.
This trope also applies to the player and is the cause of many a Guide Dang It moment (or console-smash). You cannot end the investigation portion of the game until you have retrieved all clues. If you fail to have the correct evidence amassed, characters you desperately need to talk to will not appear. Examining every location top to bottom is one option, but some "Examine" spots that appear to belong to different objects will only replay the same pointless banter between characters over and over again. You can, in fact, spend many minutes moving pixel by pixel and still miss adding evidence. For failure, you're rewarded with the inability to talk to key witnesses and the knowledge that you have to check locations again, putting you in the situation of knowing that you've missed something but having no idea what. (Rage-quitting never felt so good.) Unlike in the trial portion of the game, you cannot "die" and start over, so spot-checking down to the pixel or checking a guide are your only options.
Belkar: Wait! I think I just failed a Listen check!
By the rules, ninja are hard to spot (and automatically considered hiding regardless of circumstances). Belkar can't even spot the ninja panel in the bonus page about the Pirates vs. Ninjas controversy.
When Riff from plays an MMORPG, he's frustrated trying to get an item that's only dropped by female slimeblobs, which he can't tell apart from the males. It takes Torg to point out that, like all women in the game, the female slimeblobs all have the bodies of supermodels.
Riff: In retrospect, why the hell didn't I notice that sooner?
Subverted in "The Research and Development Wars": Torg tells a story about the architect who designed the building they're now in and, due to having made its core into some kind of an inescapable Möbius strip shape, was trapped there forever. Zoë asks where he is now if that's the case. Torg points to a skeleton sitting right next to her. She states that she "totally thought he was part of [their] team" — which while she was away had come to actually include a vampire and a zombie head on a stick.
The Looking for Group crew does this once. Somehow they fails to notice the dragon perched conspicuously atop the spire in the middle of the cavern while they go down into the crater to play with the eggs. Oops. Apparently, it was a statue before they touched the eggs.
It's implied that Equius's Heir of Void power in Homestuck amounts to being able to make things impossible to spot check. This can range from pixellization on musclebeast penises to hiding something from the omniscient view of a god. Specifically, it was implied with his Ancestor Darkleer, who had the ability of the Void.
Previous to this, Dave Strider manages to mistake the apocalypse for a heatwave.
Grymm and Creepknight from Voodoo Walrus make a bad habit of this when it comes to not noticing that they're being tailed by ninjas or various henchmen looking to ruin their day. Everyone but Mirth seem to be susceptible to this when it comes to the strange spooky yet cute creatures that regularly pop up in places without any explanation at all.
In Commander Kitty, every time the crowds stop and creepily announce that their target has arrived, Ace somehow manages to completely ignore it, or simply shrug it off as a local custom.
During the Let's Play of Fallout 3 by Spoiler Warning, Shamus admits to having completely missed Liberty Prime until the big battle in during his first play-through, despite having passed through the room it's stored in several times during the course of the play-through. Liberty Prime is a 50 feet tall Humongous Mecha.
This is the same man who only discovered that a new sofa had been delivered and was in the next room after seeing a tweet from his wife.
Freddiew's Lightbulb Assassin features a particularly egregious case of a security guard unable to notice the man shooting out lights from 2 feet behind him. See it here.
A photo seen on the internet, captioned "43rd Annual Ninja parade" — showing an empty street, of course.
Used as a plot point in To Boldly Flee, where the fact that nobody notices continuity errors of the fact that Linkara has quite obviously been replaced by his evil robot counterpart due to an in-universe plot hole sucking up continuity and sense like the black hole it resembles.
Ultra Fast Pony. Fluttershy is supposed to wait for the snow to be cleared away before she wakes up the animals. She fails to notice that the ground is still covered in snow, even when she's standing in it.
Fluttershy: I thought it was dandruff!
During Rooster Teeth's "Let's PlayVideo Game/Minecraft" series, it's not uncommon to have one of the Achievement Hunter guys totally spaz out and forget where something went. Among these were Geoff not realizing he turned his blocks of wood into sticks, Jack diving down a hole in an attempt to ambush Gavin and Ryan accidentally reequipping his boat, having it in his hand, and going "Where did my boat go?"
Probably the longest case of this involves a picture of two guys performing karate. Back in episode 15, Michael had heard Ray making stereotypical karate noises and told him to shut up. Flash forward to episode 28 when Michael finally discovers it and exclaims "How long have we had this?!"
Happened once in Futurama, as Bender was talking smack about Morgan; Leela and Fry were making shushing motions, and he says, "Uh oh, is she behind me?" Morgan replies with, "No, I'm in front of you!" and Bender squeaks like a mouse.
Happens to Darkwing Duck a lot. The best example is from "The Justice Ducks". Darkwing finds a lone crumb which — using ridiculously advanced levels of obscure knowledge and Sherlock Logic — he uses to track down Negaduck's headquarters, which has a giant flag with Negaduck's head on it.
Negaduck: I see you found the crumb. I knew you'd never notice the huge flag.
Kim Possible: Ron Stoppable repeatedly fails romantic spot checks in relation to himself, with Tara the cheerleader and Yori the ninja Action Girl. He failed to recognise their interest despite being kissed by them, Yori twice in one episode.
In the South Park episode "The Coon", Cartman poses as a superhero. When he reports his findings to the police, he "disappears" while talking to them, only to reveal that he is now on the other side of the room. They lose track of him again moments later when he moves back to his original position. Seconds after that, they once again can't find him, until he announces that he's about one foot to the left of where he had been.
The Powerpuff Girls fail to notice they're being followed by a tank, a bunch of Wacky Racer-esque cars, and Professor Utonium while they're searching for the MacGuffin of "The Powerpuff Girls Rule".
In the eighth episode of the second season of Winx Club, a monster sent to attack Red fountain is meant as a distraction while the Trix search for the codex. Realizing this, Saladin and Cordatorta bring several guards to the codex room in case the Trix find it. If any of them had looked behind them, they would've seen that Icy was following them.
On an episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes where Jimmy is stuck flying a plane, Heloise tells him over the radio not to press the big pink button. It's right in front of him, and bigger than he is, yet he comments that he missed it.
And in "Feeling Pinkie Keen", Twilight is too busy gloating about how right she is to see the four hundred-foot-long hydra necks that are right next to her.
In the historical pageant from "Hearth's Warming Eve", the three rulers of the pony races all get through speeches claiming the future land of Equestria as their new home... before realizing the other two are nearby.
Which is kind of a subversion when you consider scale. One was on the side of a mountain, another in the valley, and the third was on top of a cloud.
In "Secret of My Excess" Zecora and Twilight are so immersed in a discussion of Spike's recent kleptomania problem that they fail to notice him stealing literally everything from Zecora's shack.
Twilight is pretty bad about this. In "It's About Time", she tries to break into the Star Swirl the Bearded wing of the castle. At one point, she walks around in front of it, despairing over how to find it, before Pinkie Pie suggests that they ask someone in the Star Swirl the Bearded wing.
To be completely fair, Twilight WAS severely sleep deprived at the time
The Cutie Mark Chronicles gives Sonic Rainboom a justified example with Billy and Hoops: they said there was no such thing as a sonic rainboom despite having been in a race that produced one. However, seeing as at the moment it happened one was spinning out of control and the other painfully ensconced in a pillar, they would have needed Critical Success on their spot checks to notice it.
In the very first episode of X-Men, Jubilee fails to notice the Sentinel hiding behind two very small trees. Because you know how easily purple and red blend in with the green of nature.
Used very often in young children's programming, usually to teach the kids. A better example would be Blues Clues, where the host does it, but gives off the impression that he does know it's there and is just doing it to teach the viewers. A worse example would be Dora The Explorer and Diego, who seem to legitimately not see the mountain on the horizon and come off as kind of stupid for it.
While it is somewhat forgivable given the nature of the show involving robots in disguise, a number of characters in the course of The Transformers manage to fail an astounding number of spot checks. One instance which is so ludicrous as to be hilarious involves Soundwave, already a notoriously sneaky Decepticon infiltration expert and intelligence officer... managing to hide inside Ironhide while the Autobot is in vehicle mode. Soundwave spends a good amount of time next to Blaster, his Autobot counterpart, who is also in tape player mode. Neither Autobot notices Soundwave until he decides to eject Ravage... and even then, Soundwave manages to sneak away. This astounding lack of perception carries over to the commercials as well, where in an amusing inversion of the norm (with people unwittingly carrying Soundwave into a secure location), Rumble struts back into Decepticon HQ carrying a radio he found. Soundwave, being Genre Savvy and wise to his own brand of tricks, immediately deduces the nature of the radio. Rumble... is a little slower on the uptake.
Rumble: Hey, look at this radio I found! Soundwave:Autobot intruder! Rumble: Where? Blaster:(transforms on Rumble's shoulder, and kicks him aside) Here!
The human character's aren't much better. In the infamously dumb episode B.O.T., the teen protagonists don't seem to notice that the building they're standing nearby is engulfed in flames and surrounded by a fire brigade until they hear a scream.
Happens often on Johnny Bravo. One time, Johnny became a reporter and wandered the streets trying to find a story, somehow not noticing a fire, a UFO, a goofy old man dancing, and a cow wearing a dress.
He was once challenged to find a rhinoceros in a room. He failed to notice it sitting on the sofa even after he lifted it to look under it.
Cellbound has a prisoner digging a tunnel in his cell, while leaving a colossal mound of dirt right outside his window. Nobody ever notices.
The vast majority of humans can only pay full attention to a handful of things and our peripheral awareness also has limits. This is actually a good thing as it prevents information overload and frees up thinking power and memory capacity, but it does cause us to fail spot checks on a myriad of subtle cues. Proper training and certain disorders can expand the aforementioned limits but they result in both positive and negative changes to the fundamental brain functions.
In aircraft crashes or near-crashes caused by pilot error, failing the spot check because the pilot(s) get too wrapped up in something is one of the more common causes, especially since planes are often flown on instruments only with no visual cues outside. For example, one notable case had a 747 pilot focusing on his airspeed indicator because of an engine problems and failing to notice his attitude indicator, right beside the instrument he was looking at indicated the plane was about to go into a diving barrel-roll. In another case the Lockheed L-1011 crew were so busy debating a failed warning light that they never even noticed they were losing altitude until they plowed into the ground!. Then there are pilots who miss glaringly obvious things in their pre-flight checklists: such as in Air Florida Flight 90 when the pilots, in heavy ice and snow, left their plane's engine anti-icing system off.
This is, incidentally, why they have checklists aircrews have to follow when flying planes. It could be said that the rules regarding this practice are "written in blood". That is to say, lessons learned from the mistakes of those who died, not to be confused with those who Couldn't Find a Pen.
As Northwest Airlines Flight 255 would indicate, checklists alone aren't enough, as they tend to be long, and it can be fairly easy, in stressful situations, to miss whole sections. Modern checklists tend to be digital, and place-saving, thus making it much less likely to miss bits.
Similar in surgeries — ask any surgeon who's been in the game long enough if they've left something in somebody or known somebody who has. Checklists and questions may seem annoying or unnecessary but its all too easy to glaze over glaringly obvious things. Going double when you have just spent over an hour doing delicate work with a person's life in your hands and now are almost finished and just want to go sit down and do anything else.
Turns out that if you have people watch a tape of a fast-paced basketball game, and you tell them to count the number of passes, they can get so distracted they fail to notice someone moonwalking across the court in a bear suit. (The researchers who determined this won an Ig Nobel Prize.)
In a similar vein, a study comparing people who consider themselves "lucky" vs. "unlucky" found that "unlucky" people were far more likely when being told to count the photos in a newspaper to miss the message taking up half of page two, "stop counting, there are 34 images".
Or, you know, ignore it because they think it's a lie. Which they would think very probable because they're unlucky like that.
If they were told to count the images instead of simply being asked how many there were, then it could also be that they're simply good at following directions rather being "unlucky". The problem with these kinds of experiments is that they tell you what people do rather than why they do it.
The other problem is that since most people don't bother to read the entirety of the study, they end up making assumptions as to what the researchers were doing and just quoting the big title at the start of the paper. Which itself has been the topic of several studies, incidentally.
Pretty much how a lot of magic tricks work. Derren Brown loves doing this even using the gorilla trick in a show, on quite a small stage. Also managed to replace people right in front of their eyes without them noticing by having them focus on the map and giving directions. It must be noted that Brown usually emphasizes the psychology of his 'magic tricks' rather than spectacle or sleight of hand as a way of demonstrating the interesting ways the human mind works and the strange exploits that can be performed on it.
And not just similar people, he switched out people of different races and sexes.
That last part? That was a replication of a real psychological experiment. It got the same results.
Derren Brown had a TV special specifically devoted to this. In it, he was able to convince someone to take money-shaped pieces of blank paper as money and walk out of the store with a $2200 gold braceletnote he later returned it, almost thirty minutes later, at which point he had to point out that the money was fake, asked to view a man's very expensive watch and then calmly walked away with itnote the man watched him go for about a minute before realizing something was wrong, and not only convinced a woman that the color yellow was in fact red, but then asked to see her red car, which she was absolutely convinced someone had painted yellow.
A television program about this had a similar experiment where they had a person at a registration desk bend down behind the desk for a pen and a different person stands to continue the sign-in process. In the span of seconds, the subjects failed to notice the guy had different features, voice, and clothing in a few cases.
Another version of this has one of the testers stop someone in the street to ask for directions. While they are talking, two men carrying a sheet of drywall rudely step in between the two, separating them for an instant, after which the conversation continues. From the opposite side, of course, you see the person who stopped to ask for directions grab the sheet and be replaced by one of the men who had been carrying it: a man wearing different clothing, of different ethnicity, and of course a different voice. Most of the unwitting subjects never notice this.
Penn & Teller also use this in their magic shows. One trick has them call up a volunteer on-stage and have them use a video camera to replicate close-up magic. Of course, it's all a joke on them, as Penn switches the tablecloth, the background, etc. Penn makes sure to point out how much of a spot check the audience member failed at the end, especially since he failed to notice that he's not an audience member at all, he's actually Teller.
Wearing a helmet makes soldiers more likely to be shot because helmets block peripheral vision.
Military camouflage is designed specifically to encourage people to fail spot checks. Think for a moment the last time you saw anything anywhere that actually looked like any of the camo patterns you see military personnel wear (other than a couch◊). Ditto for airplanes and even ships with camouflage painted on. The idea isn't necessarily to make the wearer look like everything else, it's to make them not look like what they are. If you are looking for a soldier, that weird pattern he is wearing might just throw you off for long enough for him to get away or find you first.
Natural camouflage works the same way. You might not think an animal is especially camouflaged if you are looking at it directly, and odds are a predator won't be fooled either, but if the camouflage only stops them from being noticed for a split second out of the corner of a predator's eye(s), it's still worth it.
Military camo is also designed to disrupt the results of a spot check when looking at a group of camouflaged objects. The patterns weave randomly one into the next, making it very hard to see boundaries. When infantry or tents or ships are packed in close formation and viewed from afar, it's hard to tell if there's ten units there, or fifty. Thus, even a successful spot check typically fails to alert the spotter of the magnitude of the force they're facing.
The dazzle paint used on ships in WWII was intended not to make ships hard to see, but to make it hard to judge the shape of the ship. This made it more difficult to determine the type of ship and its range, heading, and speed.
Some less competent military commanders have been guilty of this.
In The American Revolution, General George Washington lost two battles (Brooklyn Heights and Brandywine) because he and his division commanders did not check their ground for gaps, passes, fords, and other weak spots, despite being encamped in the area for days before the fight. In both battles the British were able to break through the US Army before they even fired a shot. A fine man Washington, but he could be sloppy at times.
At The American Civil War battle of Gettysburg Union, Gen. Sickles disobediently moved his corps to a new position. Sickle's new position was a better spot for his cannons... but it was also too far away from the rest of the Union army, too big to be defended by the forces he had on hand, left a much more important piece of ground unprotected, faced woods that could easily conceal large enemy forces, and was shaped in such a way that his forces had to bend into a salient. These are all things that are on the checklist, but Sickles apparently stopped after the "Good place for cannons? Yes/No" question. oopsie...
This trope is one of the main reasons why open sights or optics are preferred for short range combat versus aperture sights. Aperture sights require that one eye stare obsessively through the hole and focus on the front sight post. This creates a huge blind spot for the user and cuts down on situational awareness.
Or wallet, or cell phone, or remote, or glasses, or...
Actually justifiable in the case of glasses when they're not on your head.
Especially when actually holding it (i.e. looking for a phone while complaining to a friend about it on said phone, listening to music while looking for mp3 player playing said music, or wondering where one's glasses are while not noticing how suddenly clear everything is).
More than one hilarious screencap has shown up on the internet of a person who texts their friend, telling said friend to call their phone because they can't find it.
Or forgetting the blindingly obvious, such as suddenly being alarmed by thinking one has forgotten his/her keys, while driving.
A lot of pickpockets apply this trope physically to their advantage. As mentioned in a book on the subject, one lesson all successful pickpockets learn early in their training is that no one can truly pay attention to two things at once. One individual technique that works remarkably well is the bump-and-swipe, in which one bumps the mark while swiping his wallet. While focused on being jostled, he can't make a spot check for his wallet to notice that it's slipping out of his pocket. Unless he knows about this technique, he's also unlikely to make such a spot check immediately after being bumped, especially if the pickpocket subsequently keeps him distracted with "flustered" apologies for jostling him.
Several of the more spectacular American/Canadian football trick plays rely on the opposing team failing to notice one player on the other team doing something oddly: why is that player hunched over in the middle of the field, not moving, as if he were bent over concealing a football, while the play has moved over to the sidelines?
A recent NFL example: The Chicago Bears were set to return a punt, they placed their two best returners (Devin Hester and Johnny Knox) back to receive the punt. The ball is kicked, a few seconds later, Hester takes off up the field, moving towards the left sideline and every player on the field follows him to block/block for him. Every player except one that is. Johnny Knox was the one who actually caught the ball and streaked up the right sideline to the opposing endzone. Too bad the play was called back because of a Holding penalty on a different Bear.
Keep in mind that Hester is widely regarded as one of the best returners of all time (he holds the records for both most punt return touchdowns and most (kick and punt combined) return touchdowns) so the defense focusing on him is entirely logical.
How about spotting that one lego piece you really need? That one piece you KNOW there are several copies in the same pile? That very one piece you saw FIVE times when you weren't actually looking for it?
This also happens when doing a jigsaw puzzle.
How many times have you spent twenty minutes looking through a laundry bin for the mate to the sock you're holding?
Sadly, this is often the cause of car accidents; spot checks are very important when driving, which is why drunk driving and texting while driving are such bad ideas.
When playing dodgeball even a small, weak player can get the strong ones out by tossing a ball while they're throwing.
On the Discovery Channel series Mind Blast, to demonstrate this trope in action, they had a clown on a unicycle ride through a crowded plaza. The people on their cell phones were completely oblivious to the existence of said clown, even saying they saw no clown when they were asked about it later.
Some stroke victims have a condition called unilateral neglect, where they will not be able to notice anything that goes on one side of his or her body. They still have 100% vision, hearing, feeling, but they cannot breakthrough the blindspot without being prompted. Patients with this condition will only shave half of their face, acknowledge pain from one side of their body, and only notice half of a pancake placed in front of them.
In school, how many times have you heard someone forgot to write their name on a paper?
You would think a train would be easy to spot from far away, given how big and loud most trains are. But even on a clear day, with no obstacles, trains are hard to see or hear, even with all their lights and horns and bells, and even harder to track. They move faster than we think something that big should be moving, and seem to speed up the closer they get. And that is why, when you are at a grade crossing, you should always assume that there might be a train coming, whether you are at a grade crossing with flashing lights, bells, and gates; and especially so at rural grade crossings marked with just a crossbuck; and this danger increases on grade crossings at curves (where trees and buildings might make seeing a train harder) and on double track lines (one train may have gone by, but there probably is another one coming on the other track within a few seconds). This trope has killed too many people and caused too much damage at railroad crossings.